El Encuentro

Building Systems to Support Immigrant Families

Colorful illustration of children stepping on flowers
Illustration: Eric Nyquist

Unprecedented numbers of unaccompanied immigrant children and newcomer children in families are arriving in the U.S. seeking safety and protection after fleeing communities where extreme poverty, violence, and social conditions make it impossible to thrive and grow.

These children and families have incredible resilience but often experience traumatic stress in their originating country, during migration, and upon arrival. While integrating into U.S. communities, they often face numerous legal, educational, health, mental health, and social challenges.

Despite the known long-term consequences of unaddressed childhood adversity and trauma exposure — including significant health, mental health, and functional impairments as well as public health risks and societal costs — newcomer immigrant children and families enter communities without a safety net or system of care designed to address their complex, multi-faceted needs. Systemic barriers to what resources are available (though often scarce and siloed) leave many children “falling through the cracks,” encountering bias and discrimination, and experiencing an exacerbation of accumulating traumatic stress.

To address these problems, we seek to develop and evaluate model programs that provide integrated, multidisciplinary, trauma-informed services as part of “el encuentro” (“the encounter” or “starting place”) for newcomer children and families.

In partnership with Ayudando Latinos a Soñar and Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County, two groups at the forefront in responding to the needs of immigrant communities in the San Francisco Bay Area, our research team is co-creating tools, infrastructure, and research design plans that capture the impact of these programs and innovations. We work with service provider networks to synthesize, implement, and disseminate best practices for interdisciplinary collaboration to deliver comprehensive, coordinated programs centered on immigrant families and cultural assets. We seek to use these resources and data to advance broader policy and systems change to protect the health and interests of all children.

Ryan Matlow
Ryan Matlow

2021-2022 Design Fellow; Clinical Associate Professor , Stanford School of Medicine

N. Ewen Wang
N. Ewen Wang

2021-2022 Design Fellow; Professor of Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics , Stanford School of Medicine